How do the 2017 local parliamentary candidates intend to help startups in Bristol?

In the run up to the General Election on June 8th, Simpleweb has been contacting local parliamentary candidates to ask how they intend to help startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Bristol area.

We asked a bunch of local candidates the following question:

If elected, what do you plan on doing for startups and small businesses? In particular will the Seed Enterprise Investment (SEIS), Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), Research & Development Tax Credit (R&D) schemes be affected, how will talent be attracted to the city and retained, and what do you plan on doing for startups and small businesses?

We contacted a number of candidates from different parties to get as broad a view as possible. In total we received replies from two Labour, one Liberal Democrat and one Conservative candidate.

Here’s what they had to say…

Conservative

Charlotte Leslie, Candidate for Bristol North West

Photo of Charlotte Leslie“The manifesto, out today, makes several pledges in relation to small businesses. The Government has pledged to:

  • Continue to support small businesses through business rate relief and low taxation, and by reducing the bureaucracy and regulation that prevents small businesses from flourishing.
  • Consult on how to extend our safeguard energy tariff cap to micro-businesses.
  • Ensure that 33 per cent of central government purchasing will come from SMEs by the end of the parliament.Explore how government can do even more to support innovation by small and start-up firms.
  • Use Government buying power to ensure that big contractors comply with the Prompt Payment Code both on government contracts and in their work with others. If they do not do so, they will lose the right to bid for government contracts.
  • Establish a good tax system that is not just about the headline rates of tax, but about simplicity. Our system remains too complicated, making it hard for people – especially self-employed people and small businesses – to assess their taxes

“In relation to helping small businesses locally, my main priority is to press for improvements to public transport to ensure people are able to travel to and from work, without wasting valuable hours sat in traffic gridlock. I have been campaigning forcefully for a ‘Henbury loop’ railway line (which already exists for freight services), to become open to the public. From talking to local businesses (something I do regularly), improving public transport – and the impact a lack of transport solutions has on budgets and recruitment – is their number one priority. I would imagine this would be particularly salient for city center businesses trying to thrive and attract new talent.”

Labour

Kerry McCarthy, Candidate for Bristol East

Photo of Kerry Mccarthy

“I’ve been supporting a micro-pub that’s due to open in Fishponds shortly. As well as having great potential to be a very successful business, I think this could be a great asset to the community.

“The Bristol Pound symbolises this desire to support independent businesses, but we need to look away from the high street too. Bristol has fantastic creative and tech industries so I’m keen to ensure they have the business environment they need to thrive and that young people are given the right skills and opportunities to make the most of these industries. It shouldn’t just be about attracting entrepreneurs from outside Bristol, but about nurturing our own. UWE, for example, has a scheme to encourage its students to think about setting up small businesses.

“If re-elected, I will continue to work with Bristol’s Mayor, Marvin Rees to support a local economy in which small businesses can thrive, including at the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. Labour’s manifesto proposes appointing a Digital Ambassador to liaise with technology companies and attract investment into the UK, and I think this could make a positive difference in a city like Bristol.

“We would also establish a National Investment Bank and regional banks to identify where other lenders are failing to meet local business needs. Reforming business rates – which is an issue small businesses frequently raise with me – and scrapping quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of less than £85,000 should help start-ups. We certainly need to invest in R&D and support businesses to invest in their future, and we are committed to meeting the OECD target to spend 3% of GDP on R&D by 2030.

“In terms of tax credits, SEIS and EIS specifically, I would be keen to hear from Bristol businesses about how they think these can be improved and I would certainly be happy to pass this on to Labour’s Business team. Given the potential impact of Brexit on the economy and our ability to attract the best talents, I have urged Ministers to consult with businesses in Bristol on their priorities and on the impact of leaving the Single Market and ending freedom of movement.”

Labour

Thangam Debbonaire, Candidate for Bristol West

“Over the past two years as Bristol West MP, I’ve regularly met representatives of many large and small businesses based in the constituency. I’ve listened to their specific and general concerns (often, over the last eleven months, related to Brexit); done what I can to raise them in Parliament; and worked hard to understand the challenges our smaller businesses face.

“I welcome and support the Mayor and Bristol City Council’s initiatives to attract new businesses to the city, and to nurture the start-ups and small businesses we already have. Bristol’s economy is strong, and we have every intention of remaining one of the key areas outside London that are net contributors to the national economy.”

“In fact, small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of our economy, providing 60 per cent of private-sector jobs. Technological changes, like the spread of digital manufacturing and rapid communication, mean smaller, faster businesses will be the future of our economy.

“The Labour Party, in its manifesto, makes clear it is the party of small businesses – unlike the Conservative Government that has taken them for granted. So, in order to provide the support many small businesses need, a Labour government will:

  • Mandate the new National Investment Bank, and regional development banks in every region, to identify where other lenders fail to meet the needs of SMEs and prioritise lending to improve the funding gap.
  • Reinstate the lower small-business corporation tax rate.
  • Introduce a package of reforms to business rates – including switching from RPI to CPI indexation, exempting new investment in plant and machinery from valuations, and ensuring that businesses have access to a proper appeals process – while reviewing the entire business rates system in the longer run.
  • Scrap quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of under £85,000. It’s a burden and a distraction that holds entrepreneurs back.
  • Take action on late payments, and help to prevent the exploitation of small and medium-sized businesses (currently owed £26bn in late payments) by: using government procurement to ensure that anyone bidding for a government contract pays its own suppliers within 30 days; developing a version of the Australian system of binding arbitration and fines for persistent late-payers for the private and public sectors.

“There are no plans to change the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, the Enterprise Investment Scheme, or research and development tax credits.

“Britain, and working people, need prosperous businesses. At the moment too many are struggling to expand and grow, held back by a lack of investment, skills and finance. They have even, as with the botched business rate revaluation, been undermined and destabilised by this current government. Labour will stand up for British businesses and provide them with the support and stability they need. In doing so, we can create growth, jobs and an economy that works for all.”

Liberal Democrat

Celia Downie, Candidate for Bristol North West

“Business is a top priority for Liberal Democrats, as business means jobs and brings prosperity, not just for individuals and their families, but for Bristol as a City. I am a Bristolian by birth, and have Masters degree from Bristol University. My family have lived here for more than 150 years, and my grandmother ran a shop, whilst my grandfather worked for Brooke Bond tea.

“Liberal Democrats aim to help startups and fast growing businesses through the creation of a new “start up allowance”, the provision of mentoring support for entrepreneurs, and a thorough review of business rates. I would be interested in the creation of new workspaces for start ups, providing local jobs to cut down on travel time, and more incentives to companies for employees to work at home once a week etc.

“I recently visited the cutting edge Robotics Laboratory, a shared Bristol and UWE facility, where people from 24 nations, many of them Europeans, are engaged in new technology and its applications, especially but not exclusively, commercial. Strong representations were made to me by people from several parts of Europe about Brexit and their fears for the future. Clearly giving people security to come to Bristol and work, and state of the art facilities, is crucial if we are to attract and retain talent, from EU as well as UK graduates.”

Conclusion

The Conservative response focused mainly around removing the bureaucracy and regulations that prevent small businesses from working with government. Additionally they plan on offering business rate relief and low taxation for small businesses and wish to extend the safeguard energy tariff cap paid by micro-businesses. Locally their focus centres around the Henbury Loop and improving public transport within the City of Bristol to ease congestion and stop grid locks. There is no mention on how SEIS, EIS and R&D tax credit schemes will be affected if they were to be elected.

If elected, Labour plan to offer a lower small-business corporation tax rate. Thangam Debbonaire states there is no plan to change the SEIS, EIS and R&D tax credit schemes. In contrast Kerry Mcarthy made no assurance on whether these would change, other than that she would be keen to hear from local businesses how these can be improved and would be happy to pass this onto Labour’s Business teams. Furthermore they also plan to scrap quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of under £85,000, whilst establishing a National Investment Bank and regional banks to identify where other lenders are failing to meet local business needs.

The Liberal Democrats plan is to create a new “startup allowance”, through the provision of mentoring support for entrepreneurs, and to have a thorough review of business rates. In addition to this they wish to focus on creating new workspaces and to allow more flexibility for employees to work from home. They take a stronger view on attracting and recruiting talent from the EU as well as UK graduates to help curb the impact of Brexit. There is no mention on how SEIS, EIS and R&D tax credit schemes will be affected if they were to be elected.

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